Cut It Out – Creative Cuts for Beautiful Cookies

by connie on October 9, 2018

It can’t take much imagination for you to believe that I have LOTS of cookie molds. Some of my favorite cookie presses are beautifully carved images on rectangles of many different sizes. Because the historic and also the more recent original molds were hand carved with no size standardization, there are so many variables of dimensions and shapes that having a cutter for each of the molds is impractical.

For rectangular shapes I most often use my dough scraper to cut the rectangles and for round and oval shapes I employ my nested sets of cutters. I also have sets of nested square cutters, though there are not very many historic molds that are perfectly square.

But lately I have found myself using cutters that are not the shape of the mold. This technique has a few nifty advantages. One is that it can be a faster, more efficient way to cut the cookies and, BONUS, many of those cookies look even more beautiful. Thirdly, using a round or oval cutter on a rectangular mold can eliminate the flat areas around the carved part of the mold thus eliminating the flat puffy area of the cookies that bothers some perfectionists.

Here are some ideas for using molds with creative cuts:

This one is easy. I’ve been cutting this mold (M5803 Fireworks) with a round cutter since I first saw it. You just kinda know that this will be a prettier cookie when cut with either a plain or scalloped round cutter. You may have seen this design used to cut out fondant or marzipan to top a cupcake. Easy and WOW!

Here is another square mold.(M5149 The Bells) It’s perfectly nice cut with a dough scraper. You might not say to yourself “I could cut this cookie round”. But the cookie takes on a whole new charm when you do cut it out with either a square or round scalloped cutter. The same round cutter was used for the Fireworks mold above. These cutters are from Fat Daddio and come in nested sets in their own storage container.

Yes, here is another square mold that begs to be cut in the round. This one is M5159 Nativity and cut in the round is 3.25 inches diameter. I used one of my fluted round cutters from an Ateco nested set of rounds, also in their own storage container. For you crafters, this makes a really pretty tree ornament!

How about on oval cutter for a rectangular press? Yes, I like it. It’s pretty and so much faster to cut. You’ll have plenty of time to make the pies AND cookies! (M6084 Cornucopia of Fruit)

Here is another rectangular mold (M7017 Striking Grapes) that I find stunning cut in the oval shape with a fluted oval cutter.

On this mold ( M7430 Elizabethan Tulip) I used the oval cutter to isolate just the bloom part of the image. You might have fun experimenting with some of your larger cookie molds to get some smaller cookies.

This is fun! I will probably now be checking out multiple ways to do creative cuts. Try it.

Happy Baking!

Connie

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The Anise Seed/Anise Oil Debate

by connie on September 20, 2018

I’ve had multiple conversations with many students, customers and cookie bakers concerning their questions and preferences for flavoring their Springerle cookies with anise seed or anise oil. Many of the preferences are based family traditions as in “my family always made them with____”.  Insert oil or seed in the blank.  Some folks just want to know what to use and some just want my opinion.

Firstly, let me just state that my family tradition is anise oil and that I have always loved Springerle cookies and for a long time thought that was the only way to make them. But early in my public experiences, I found that there are  hundreds of variations on Springerle making. Some with leavening, some without. Some with powdered sugar, some with granulated sugar. Some with feet, some without. Et cetera. And some with anise oil and some with anise seed.

I have tried many Springerle recipes and still always come back to the one my grandmother gave to me. And while I had eaten samples of cookies with the anise seed backing, I had not made them, until recently. I knew the procedure and that the anise seed version needed to age to develop the anise flavor. I also know I liked the rustic look and crunch of the seeds adhered to the back of the cookies.

Here is my experience and how to make Springerle WITH anise seeds on the back:

I made my Springerle dough without any flavoring oil or extract.

I sprinkled my cookie sheet liberally with anise seeds.

 

I formed my cookies as usual and placed them gently on the anise seeds.

 

I pressed each cookie, again very gently, to slightly adhere the cookies, knowing that when I baked them the rising would push the seeds more into the cookie.

 

I dried the cookies for 24 hours as usual and then baked them as usual.

 

After cooling, I flipped a few cookies over and yes indeed the seeds had adhered.

 

Kept safely from the cookie monsters, here they are in late August ready for the taste test!

Now for the tasting!

Tasting # 1  June 23, 2018  Shortly after baked and cooled. A barely perceptible anise flavor, but I knew the aging process was  required and many traditional recipes call for an aging period. (Including recipes with only anise oil as the anise flavor develops with aging.)

Tasting #2  July 23, 2018  A more pronounced anise flavor. More subtle than I would like.

Tasting # 3  August 27, 2018   Now we are getting somewhere! Definitely anise and I do so like the crunch of the anise seed on the bottom of the cookie.

 

These are my conclusions from this fun project:

  • If you really like a mild anise flavor and the authentic rustic feel, anise seed backed cookies aged for at least one month might be your favorite version of this traditional cookie. Longer aging for stronger flavor.
  • If you like a stronger anise flavor profile, use anise oil. Even when you use anise oil, the flavor gets stronger as the cookie ages.
  • If you like a strong flavor AND the seeds use BOTH knowing that the flavor will continue to evolve as the cookie age.

And my preference based on these conclusions? I like strong flavors and particularly the anise and licorice flavors, but also the crunch of the rustic seeds. I also understand  that, historically, many people would have used seeds when the oil was not available to them. I also know some people who cannot eat seeds. So I will be baking my Springerle with anise oil only and also with both anise oil and some anise seeds.

And what will you be trying next??

Happy Baking! Connie

 

 

 

 

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How Thick to Roll Springerle Dough?

by connie on August 24, 2018

 

Many of you have questioned me about how thick the dough should be rolled before you apply the cookie mold and press. The single most common error I see when teaching Springerle classes is that students roll their dough  to 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick as if they were making sugar cookies. The dough for Springerle cookies must be rolled at least 3/8 inch thick and I often find that 1/2 is a good thickness for deeper molds and very deep molds may require the dough to be even thicker.

 

Above, I have shown the top surfaces of two cookies made with the same mold. Though they are different images from the mold (M7615 Cassie’s Garden) shown at the right, the carving on all images has similar depth. Both cookies have a nicely defined print after baking. You will note that there is somewhat more distortion on the right hand side cookie: the sides are slightly puffed in places, the top is slightly  more domed and the rectangular shape is not as even. More dough and more rising will mean more distortion, so too thick is also problematic.

 

Take a look at the red arrows, which shows the thickness of the pressed cookies before they were baked. The dough on the left was thinner, and the dough on the right was thicker.

Take a look at a side view of the two broken cookies. Both thicknesses are fully baked with a fully formed dense cake like texture. On the left thinner cookie, most of the leavening has occurred on the bottom half of the cookie. The thicker cookie is more domed on the top; because there is more dough it has risen more on both the top and the bottom of the cookie. For both of these cookies the thickness of the dough was plenty deep enough to get a full impression of the carving. In my mind, these are both good thicknesses. They have both risen so that they are not hard discs, they have nice clean impressions and they have a dry cake-like texture.

But, the thinner cookie will get drier and harder more quickly, while the thicker cookie will stay somewhat softer which makes perfectly good sense. Personally, I prefer the thicker cookie. I am willing to have a slightly less perfect end result on the image and have a softer cookie. This decision ends up being a personal preference, so you will have to decide how thick to roll the dough to meet your preference.

So the thickness you roll Springerle dough will differ depending on:

  • must be thick enough to to get a full impression of the carving plus have a minimum depth of 1/4 inch after pressing
  • if you are  very strong and apply heavy pressure with the mold, roll the dough more thickly
  • your personal preference about a harder or softer cookie
  • your personal preference about how “perfect” you want the cookie to look

Some practice and experience will help you determine the best thickness for you.

Happy Baking! Connie

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A Few Challenges

by connie on February 5, 2018

With all good intentions, I started a project to try using powdered freeze dried raspberries to flavor Springerle cookies. After finding the freeze dried fruit readily available on line, I  ordered both freeze dried raspberries and strawberries, and also raspberry and strawberry flavorings to test by using the fruit alone or in combination with the liquid flavorings. The idea to use freeze dried fruit for Springerle flavoring was given to me by Andrea Estes Riesling when I taught a molded cookie class at Cooking at the Cottage in November. I have also been seeing in foodie magazines that the use of freeze dried fruit is somewhat trendy and my curiosity begs me to explore this trend.

I really had no idea about how much of the freeze dried fruit to use. I decided to make a first test making a one-half batch of my Nini’s Perfection Springerle. To begin, I weighed out 1.25 ounces of the freeze dried raspberries and ground them to a fine powder using my mini food processor.  The result was a very fine powder with lots of seeds, which I was able to strain out of the powder using a fine mesh strainer. When I weighed the resulting seeds, I found that there was .45 ounce of seeds. Hmmm…thought I, this probably needs more flavoring, so I made the decision to add the raspberry powder and 1/4 teaspoon of the raspberry flavoring to the dough. I added these flavor ingredients at the same time that I would add anise oil or any selected flavoring and mixing it into the dough, and thereafter added the flour as usual and sealed the dough in a zipper freezer storage bag as usual. The next morning, I formed cookies with the dough in my usual manner, let them dry for 24 hours and baked the cookies.

Strangely, the first tray of cookies did not rise. I could smell the raspberry flavor though. Second tray, same problem, the cookies did not rise. Oven thermometer was put into the oven to reveal that the temperature was about 50 degrees lower than the oven setting. I reset the oven and waited for the temperature to rise, watching the thermometer all the while. Not to be.  Ok, so I finished baking them off, knowing they would not rise properly. Connie, remember the biscuits that didn’t rise two weeks ago and the lasagna that look an extra 30 minutes?? And yet when the repair guy came last week, the oven worked perfectly. Then the muffins that were raw in the middle. Then the next batch of muffins that were fine. Bottom line: I am unable to be without a reliable oven!

Now, back to the experiment with freeze dried raspberries. The resulting cookies are leaden, having not risen, and they taste too strongly of raspberry. Is that the result of their heaviness or that I added the extra flavoring unneccessarily?  The pink color isn’t exactly as I hoped it would be. Was that too a result of the fruit powder or the flavoring?  The edges of the cookie of the larger cookies are browner than I would like them to be. Is that the trick oven?? Good questions!

Stay tuned. More experimentation to come and I’ll check in with Andrea to see if she has tried working with the freeze dried fruit in the Springerle.  In the meantime, if you want pink Springerle for Valentine’s Day, add some pink food coloring gel in your dough.Remember, a little gel goes a long way.

MY NEW OVEN ARRIVES TOMORROW!

Stay Warm and Happy Baking,

Connie

 

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How many cookies will I get?

by connie on October 17, 2017

People often ask me “How many cookies will I get from a Springerle batch?” There is no easy answer when there are so many variables.

Here are some guidelines using my recipe, which has 6 eggs, 2 pounds of flour and 1.5 pounds of confectioners sugar plus the other small amount ingredients. If I make the entire batch into cookies that measure about 1.5 x 2 inches I will get about 110 to 120 cookies. This is a very common size cookie for a multiple press and a cookie size that I most often make, as it works well for  class samples, open houses and packs nicely into rectangular tins for shipping.

Often, you may want to use more than one of your molds. In the batch shown in the above, I made 60 of that standard 1.5 x 2 inch size, 17 rectangular cookies approximately 2.25 x 2.75 each and 20 round cookies approximately 2.5 inches in diameter. I used about half of the dough to make the first 60 cookies and the remaining half of the dough to make those 37 cookies. Mathematically, this makes sense, as those larger cookies are almost twice as large as the smaller cookies.  The entire batch if made in the larger 2.25 x 2.75 cookie size would yield about 72 cookies.

Beyond the size of the cookie, here are some of the variables that will impact the yield in the number of cookies from this batch:

  • Thickness of the dough – you will get more cookies if you roll the dough more thinly and fewer cookies if you roll the dough more thickly.
  • Mold shapes – there will be less waste and less reworking of the dough when you use rectangular multiple molds.
  • Round or irregular shapes (such as hearts) will require more reworking of the dough and you will end up with more waste and thus a lower cookie count yield.

I hope these tips will help you as you plan your holiday baking. If you have a  large collection of molds, keep notes on how many cookies you get from a particular mold. You might divide your dough into quarters and use 4 molds to see how many cookies  you get of each mold or molds of a similar shape and size.

If you use a different recipe, don’t forget that the amount of the dough may be different too.

Happy Baking!

Connie

 

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A Springtime Cookie Using Baker’s Ammonia (Hartshorn)

by connie on March 3, 2017

Another use for Hartshorn

Are you wondering what other uses there are for your hartshorn? (Remember that hartshorn, baker’s ammonia and ammonium carbonate are all the same ingredient.) Although my first use of baker’s ammonia was for Springerle, I have learned that there are many Swedish cookie recipes that use ammonium carbonate. I recently ran across a brochure of cookie recipes submitted to House on the Hill in the early 1990’s. Many of those recipes are Scandinavian in origin.

Here’s one of those cookie recipes that is NOT a molded cookie, but an easy cookie using baker’s ammonia as the leavening ingredient. I note that, like my grandmother’s Springerle recipe, it calls for dissolving the baker’s ammonia. And, I will caution you again to not eat raw dough made with baker’s ammonia.

This recipe creates a light , crisp coconut cookie that you can put together and bake in short order. The recipe is from “Kitchen Kapers”, a collection of recipes from the Women’s Guild of the Edison Park Lutheran Church in Chicago.

Princess Gems

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick) softened
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ammonium carbonate dissolved in 1 teaspoon hot water
  • 2 cups sifted all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup flaked coconut

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Have lightly greased baking sheets ready.

Cream sugar and butter with an electric mixer until smooth. Add egg yolks, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla, salt and ammonium carbonate mixture. Add flour, mixing until combined.

Shape into 1 inch ball and place about 1 inch apart on baking sheets, flattening slightly with your fingers. Bake until lightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Makes about 48 cookies.

Connie’s Baking notes: I used my 1 inch (outside diameter scoop) and got 59 cookies. I baked them for 12 minutes with nice results.

Try it. The hartshorn makes a lighter  texture that would baking powder. See if you agree.

Happy Baking,

Connie

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3 Must Have Tools

by connie on November 21, 2016

There are three tools that I find indispensable for making Springerle cookies.Those three tools are a pastry brush, a dough scraper and an offset spatula. In the past 3 days I made more than 400 Springerle cookies for an upcoming event and these tools made my job so much more efficient. Sure, you can make Springerle cookies without these utensils, but you will use them for so many baking functions, you will be doubly glad to have them in your kitchen.

Firstly, a pastry brush, probably a tool you have in your kitchen drawer, is what you need to brush flour onto your cookie mold for every single pressing. But be sure to have a bristle pastry brush and dedicate this one to dry (flour, confectioner’s sugar) brushing only. Use another brush for wet (melted butter, oil, sauces) only. You can also use this pastry brush to dust flour lightly on your dough work surface.

Once you have a dough scraper,  you will wonder how you ever baked without having this tool at hand. I use it it to make nice clean cuts on multiple Springerle molds and rectangular shaped molds. I use it to scrape my work surface to keep it clear of dough bits. It is great for dividing dough or pastry into portions for shaping or chilling. This is the tool I use to slice my cinnamon rolls too. Cleaning up your dough or pastry working surface is a breeze when you scrape your surface with a pastry scraper before wiping with a wet dishrag or sponge.

Your pancake turner works just fine to transfer cookies. But an offset spatula that has been slipped through flour easily transfers the pressed raw cookies to a parchment lined cookie sheet. If the cookies are small you can get a line of 3 or 4 cookies on the spatula a time. Same goes for removing the baked cookies from the cookie sheet to the cooling rack.

You will especially enjoy the value of these tools during a busy baking time.

Happy Baking!   Connie

 

 

 

 

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Cleaning Cookie Presses

by connie on August 8, 2016

 

So you’ve made a few batches of pressed cookies and they are safely drying on the dining room table. The work is not over. It’s time to clean your cookie molds. You want to treat both original wood carvings and resin/wood molds just as you would any fine wood product.Read on. Of course it is easier to clean them right after use, but I’ll give you some tips in case you let the dough dry into the corners of the carving too.

BrushSoapyWaterStart by preparing a bowl of warm soapy water and collecting some terrycloth towels and a mushroom brush. The mushroom brush is a soft bristled brush that has enough surface area  to clean more square inches at a time, but you can also use a soft bristled toothbrush. Just make sure it’s soft so you don’t scratch the surface of your cookie mold. NEVER soak the molds in the water.

ScrubMoldDip the brush into the soapy water. Gently, but thoroughly scrub the floury mold with the brush. Turn the mold in all four directions to get into the carving at different angles. Keep scrubbing until you think you have gotten every crevice.

 

 

Do the same for larger and/or multiple image molds. You will just have more surface area to scrub.

 

 

RinseMold

 

 

 

Rinse the cookie mold under warm running water. Remember DO NOT SOAK  the molds. Over exposure to water will soften the finish on the mold, just as it would on your wooden furniture.

 

 

CheckforDough

 

Now check  for stubborn spots of dough you may have missed. Or you may have cookie molds that have dried dough in them from previous use. Drip a drop of water on the spot, let it soften for a minute.

 

CleanWithToothpick

 

 

With a round wooden toothpick, gently pick out the dough. Do not use flat toothpicks (they splinter easily) or metal tools such as skewers or needles (they scratch the surface of the molds). Repeat the drop of water again if needed. Repeat gentle scrubbing and rinsing until the mold is clean.

 

PatTerryTowelPat the rinsed mold with a terrycloth towel being sure to push into the deep parts of the carving. I use cotton terrycloth shop cloths that I buy at a big box store.

 

 

 

LayOnTowel

 

Lay the clean molds on a dry terrycloth. You can put the terrycloth towel on a cooling rack for better air circulation, especially if you have many molds to dry and the weather is humid.

 

Let the molds dry completely. Overnight is good. You never want to store the molds with any moisture on them. If you store the molds in sealed bags or containers, any moisture remaining will harm the finish. I have many molds that I hang on my wall, and others that I store in bubble bags placed in plastic totes. However you store them, store them DRY.

Good care of your cookie molds will make them last years and removing dried dough from the recesses of the mold will yeild clearer cookie prints.

 

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Summer Weather Cooperates

by connie on June 29, 2016

I got lucky with the weather this week. I often have to force summer into autumn by turning the thermostat to lower numbers and cranking the dehumidifier into high gear. Two cooler days with night temperatures in the 50’s led to a double batch frenzy of Springerle pressing. I am needing some cookies for photography and am so happy to open the windows and turn off the air conditioner for this task. I didn’t have time for a dip in the pool anyway. And I won’t mind turning on the oven.

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Easter Arrives Early

by connie on March 17, 2016

Blog3172016EASTERCOOKIE-copy

Easter really comes up fast when it is in late March. The weather might not fully cooperate for those planned Easter Egg hunts. While my children were always so delighted with snow in December, snow was not so welcome at Easter. Oh to miss the fun of the egg hunt was such a disappointment! Outdoor hunts were so much more fun and longer events than the indoor variety. Just in case, bake some cookies to paint for Easter. You can bake them now, store in highly sealed cookie tins to paint next week. Or if it happens to be cold and wet, get out the aprons, the old sheets and let the kids paint cookies on their spring break. Think daffodils, sunshine and new beginnings.

For a review my tutorial on how to paint cookies with gel colors http://www.springerlecookies.com/2014/03/needed-spring-color/

Celebrate the beauty of spring,

Connie

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